Cat enrichment

Cats frequently exhibit independence, making it simple to leave them alone at home without feeling bad. However, cats desire and need interaction as well as mental and physical stimulation, just like people do. Cats that are bored may become irrational and start acting out. If a cat is left alone for a long enough period of time, they may vent their anger in more destructive ways, such as scratching, accidents, or even aggression.

Your cat can have enriching experiences without spending a lot of time, money, or effort on them. The mind and body of your cat can be stimulated in a variety of ways, including with toys, food games, and do-it-yourself crafts using supplies you most likely already have at home.

I questioned Dr. Marci Koski of Feline Behavior Solutions regarding the significance of enrichment for cats. “Cats (and other animals) can express their natural behaviors through enrichment, which can assist in lowering stress in demanding situations.”

What is enrichment?

Giving animals the environmental stimulation they require to satisfy their natural instincts and advance their physical, psychological, and emotional well-being is known as enrichment. Additionally, it’s not just for our pets! Zoo animals receive a lot of environmental enrichment as a means of practicing their natural behaviors and having fun! Enrichment requires zookeepers to be quite inventive, and it’s fascinating to see what they come up with.

different types of enrichment

Environmental Enrichment

You can give your cat both mental and physical exercise while keeping an eye on them by taking them on walks! When attempting to improve your cat’s habitat, take into account all of your cat’s senses. When compared to animals, humans frequently don’t pay as much attention to scents or how something feels.

Consider the senses that are engaged when your cat perches on a post to observe the outdoors. This window cat cot perch is ideal for senior cats who may lack movement and can’t climb a cat tree, in addition to being fantastic for your feline’s visual enrichment. Just lower it on a window so that old cats may take in the view. It’s always a good idea to keep in mind that cats and open windows might be a deadly mix, even though you would never connect a perch to one. Cats don’t just get “high-rise syndrome” if they live in high-rise residential complexes.

Including elevated areas like a cat tree in your cat’s environment is another great option! After supporting our cats (and children) for the past three years, it is a fantastic value and quite sturdy! You might want to think about the following extra environmental enrichment options:

Many people’s homes are lacking in scratching posts and pads. We have an excellent post on the causes of cat scratching and how to lead them in the right direction. And you can now provide your cat with lots of scratching posts without sacrificing aesthetics. Finding the scratching post that works best for your cat will help you save your furniture in the long run because cats have preferences even when it comes to their scratching posts.

A rotating filtration system is excellent for keeping your water fresh and entertaining your cat. They won’t run out of water because of their interest alone. Food puzzles can also be excellent educational tools! A catio is a popular choice among cat enthusiasts if you have the space! It’s an excellent method to stimulate your cat’s senses while keeping them secure in a small area.

Social Enrichment

Cats also require social enrichment, such as play and interaction, in addition to environmental enrichment. Even though we tend to think of cats as fiercely autonomous creatures, they are actually tremendously gregarious creatures. According to Koski, “enrichment is frequently about giving unique opportunities for exploration and interaction.” Even a favorite toy or hobby might become monotonous, so switch things up every so often. Depending on the cat you have, they could require play-based socialization. Some people could enjoy playing food games, while others would merely appreciate human affection. Brushing your cats can also help you communicate that affection. Your cat will benefit much from the social enrichment, and it will also deepen your relationship.

Cognitive Enrichment

Because it requires both mental and physical effort, problem-solving activities range from puzzles to training sessions. After just five minutes of training, or after consuming their breakfast from an interactive toy or puzzle bowl, you’ll be astonished to see how prepared your cat will be for a protracted snooze or snuggle session. Try using a clicker to train your cat, suggests Dr. Koski: “You can simply teach cats to perform tricks and obey orders, and training may significantly assist with cooperative care such as nail clipping, grooming, medicating, and even make vet visits less unpleasant.”

What to Avoid in Cat Enrichment Activities

Koski warns us about safety when asked if there are any enrichment activities or toys we should steer clear of with cats. “Be careful with objects that cats can consume unless you know that they are non-toxic and safe to be consumed (e.g., plant materials),” he advises. Additionally, some toys or objects (such as those with strings) may be mistakenly consumed by cats, leading to health problems and making some cats afraid of them. When introducing a new enrichment item or activity to your cats, it is always a great idea to keep an eye on them.

DIY Cat Enrichment Toys (and beyond!)

It’s surprising what you can discover around your house that can be turned into an activity or used as a toy. Cats are naturally inquisitive, therefore it’s typical to observe them interacting with small objects that have dropped on the ground. Most of the time, something can be appealing without even being on the ground. Here are some of our preferred homemade cat toys:

Tube Toys and Brain Games

A few extra toilet paper or paper towel rolls that have been trimmed to size, along with some goodies (optional, but encouraged! ), are all you need to make delightful toys and puzzles. For various suggestions on how to make cardboard cat toys out of toilet paper rolls, see this video.

Muffin Tin Cat Puzzle

This cat enrichment puzzle is great because it’s so straightforward but challenges the feline mind. It is a fantastic way to feed your cat regular kibble and literally only takes a few minutes to put together. Grab a muffin pan, a few cat treats or kibble, and a couple little fluffy balls (or toys). You can put one of their mice or tiny balls on top of these and put them in every tin. Alternately, as your cat improves with repetition, only fill a few tins with food and cover them all with their toys. To up the difficulty a bit, you may play this game with egg cartons or ice cube trays!

Soda Box Cat-n-Mouse

Some people refer to this as “whack-a-mole” for cats. This is quite easy to put together and works with any box that is almost the same size. Whatever your cat wants, such as a feather, a fluffy ball, or a plush mouse, can be placed on the end of the wand! If you’d rather avoid dealing with sticks and glue, you could also use a big wooden spoon, attach the prize to the end, and eventually let them catch their prey!

Dr. Koski suggests even making holes in the box’s side and stuffing it with food or toys for your cat to fish out. By adding tissue paper or packing paper as a barrier for them to overcome as they try to remove their “prey,” you can increase the challenge level.

Safety Caution: Although it’s unlikely, your cat’s paws could become irritated or hurt by the cardboard’s jagged edges. Taping over any cardboard edges that have been cut is a simple preventive action. Painter’s tape works perfectly well and typically extends the lifespan of your homemade toy!

Cat Condos out of Cardboard Boxes

The COVID-19 pandemic provided the perfect opportunity to complete a project I had been wanting to work on for a while. Since everyone in my family lives at home, having a project for the kids to participate in was enjoyable. I reasoned that involving play between the cats would be a better approach to creating a good association while I was attempting to figure out how to make the cats like each other again.

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